Sunday, 20 June 2010

Talk Amongst Yourselves

Darlings, today I am utterly exhausted. So I'll just take the brakes off the com box and let you chat. The topic of the day is, "Is Catholicism more a personal lifestyle choice or more a commitment to a community of faith?"

I know I've loaded the dice a bit, since I bet none of us really like the phrase "personal lifestyle choice." So really what I mean by that is, "Can you be a Catholic without any other Catholics? Can you just be Catholic on your own? Or do you need to be part of a parish (seminary, etc.) community?"

Apologies to the non-Catholics for this exclusive post. But it's the question that is haunting me today.


Mark said...

It's both - both a 'personal lifestyle choice' and a commitment to a community of faith.

Sometimes that community is real and tangible, but other times we are isolated through place and circumstance and the community is what it always has been, the communion of saints.

At the same time it must also be a personal choice to reconversion of heart because as much as we may partake of a communion with the blessed in Heaven, we require to put in some hard work, without being Pelagianists!

sciencegirl said...

I dislike both phrasings. If forced to choose, I would pick the former, mainly because I am sick to death of parishes being called "faith communities." It's a fairly lame way to refer to the beauty of community in Church and just makes me think of potlucks and icebreaker games.

Yes, you can be a Catholic on your own, and many times we have to be. What if you were captured by heathens? What if you went and were a hermit? What if a man was for some reason the last priest on earth? We are always part of & enriched by the universal Church, but the truth is there are times when we will not be part of a smaller community than that. It is not something that would be good to do for a long period of time, but you do always have a choice. You can choose whether to take up your cross daily, or you can choose to not, and that choice precedes community and continues to be present whether you are in a monastery, a parish, or a hermitage. The choice is always there. The community -- the one of non-dead people -- can't always be.

Lemons said...

This actually has been a hot topic on my mind lately. It is possible to be a Catholic alone, but it's extremely hard, and I didn't realize how hard it was until I spent a few days at my old boarding school with nuns, priests, seminarians and students who are like-minded that I realized how much being isolated as I had been had taken its toll on my soul. For this reason, I'm actually moving there to donate a year working for them and living on the campus to help with boarder girls.

Again, while it's possible to be alone in your Faith, you do need the support of other Catholics. It had been months, possibly even years, since I had had a genuine bond with anyone over the Faith.

Peer pressure and the influence of others is not something to be sneezed at, no matter how old you are and our friends do indeed affect our attitudes. While I live in my current situation, I'm surrounded by secular people at work and in college and could feel my Faith slipping away, at the very least, going to the backburner.

But when you're around Catholics, their good influence is just as strong as the poor ones. Just in a few days, because I was living at a church and with piety all the time, my Faith was foremost in my mind. Going to live at a seminary is not an option available to everyone, but I hold regular interaction and support from other Catholics in the highest esteem. I think it saved my Faith.

some guy on the street said...

Catholicism Is ...

... Universal: every way of life that is intrinsically fitting --- that is, properly compatible with our Nature --- should also be compatible with the Gospel and with Christian Morals. So it's not so much a (one) choice of lifestyle as a perfection and fulfillment of all proper lifestyles.

... Apostolic: the Catholic Faith is handed to us and kept alive within the Universal Church --- primarily in the teaching office of Bishops, but also among the Lay Faithful. (A local friend recently recalled that there was a period of about thirty years or so when *most* of the bishops were personally Arian heretics, and the laity were instrumental in preserving the Faith!) The Faith lives within a community, and also within each of its members.

... Sacramental: Catholicism is preserved and strengthened through the sacramental presence of God; thus the life of the Catholic involves an immediate and personal relationship of filial love of God, which flows into obedience to His precepts, and charity with our neighbors --- (the meaning of neighbor of course encompases all of mankind, but also incorporates proper subsidiarity w.r.t. locality and relation); the Incarnation and His sacramental presence reminds us also that all Men are made in His image and are thus due dignity and honour.

Catholicism is love of and obedience to and trust in the Holy Trinity revealed through the Son, made present through the work of the Holy Spirit, according to the will of the Father (but don't read this as modalist --- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit all will, work, and reveal together), as taught by the Church and made visible through Her works. I'm not sure it helps to be more specific than that ... more precise and detailed is surely merited, but ... those are my thoughts, for now.

Maggie said...

Wonderful comments above. Speaking as a convert (from Presbyterianism and Evangelical traditions, if you're wondering), one of the many beautiful things that attracted me to the Faith was that Catholicism is a "both/and" religion. We value equally the "vertical" aspect of our faith; ie, "me and God," but also esteem the "horizontal" aspect; ie, "me and God and everybody else."

As Some Guy noted above, if the Church is, as we believe, one, holy, catholic, and apostolic, she is a community. No Catholic is an island, as it were. Practically speaking, no one can baptize himself; that entry in to the community comes from others in the community. We are nourished by the Eucharist, which only comes from a valid priesthood, whose origins are apostolic. As St. Paul wrote, we are one, even though different parts of the body have different functions. And if we are to be holy as Jesus commands us, we need the support, accountability, and admonition of others to hold us to that standard. It's a hard row to hoe alone!

Seraphic said...

Thanks, guys! Very interesting comments.

The moderation is back on now.

Anonymous said...

I missed this yesterday, but thought I'd add a few observations anyhow.

In a healthier culture, people's Catholicism would naturally be a part of them more so than nationality, race, political affiliation, profession or other analogous forms of self identity, some of which are chosen, others determined for them. Many faithful Catholics today however grow up in a predominantly secular climate where the conversion process takes place in a manner that can all too well be described as a "personal lifestyle choice." I don't think that anyone who fully understands their faith would want to define it with such limiting language which downplays grace, making it sound more like the decision to take up trout fishing or joining a service club amongst other things. Unfortunately the language of politics, law and ethics in the West doesn't seem to help. But for some of the troublesome claims of the Church towards the broader culture, the reigning orthodoxies would regard conversion as little more than any other private activity.

I would in essence agree with the previous posters comments about what the community of the faithful truly means, and am largely uncomfortable with much of the language of community that we hear today. At least a few of the converts that I've met have done so in spite of the local Church community, and I am immensely grateful that they didn't allow the failings of other Catholics to keep them from the Church. I'm thinking largely of sub-standard RCIA teachers, numerous laypeople and even some priests/religious who incidentally often use the language of community to urge adherence to questionable teachings and practices.

This isn't to knock the legitimacy of the language of community in the Church as properly understood, and I think that Catholics who feel isolated for whatever reason should be on the lookout for opportunities to join or form real communities of faith. Perhaps our praying for those who've made that "personal lifestyle choice" under isolating circumstances and for the overall health of the Church would be the most fitting way to address the issue without falling into the questionable manner that the term community is so often thrown around today.

F. Monozlai